From Emus and Aye-Ayes to Lions and Orcas | Animals Series Nonfiction

These 13 animal series offer a wide range of styles and content to engage different kinds of readers. These titles offer many appealing elements; which ones are the best match for the young readers you work with? 

 

These recent animal series offer a wide range of styles and content to engage different kinds of readers. Basic animal profiles with appropriate vocabulary can match the interests and developmental level of newer readers. High-quality profiles of familiar animals like lions and spiders are always popular. Children can also be drawn to books about creatures they’ve never heard of, such as markhors or kraits. Animal behaviors provide new perspectives. Riddles and puns can facilitate curiosity and learning. The 13 series below offer many appealing elements; which ones are the best match for the young readers you work with?
 

EARLY ELEMENTARY

Gale, Ryan. Hares and Rabbits. ISBN 9781503835917.
––––. Turtles and Tortoises. ISBN 9781503835887.
Gendell, Megan. Spiders and Daddy Long Legs. ISBN 9781503835856.
London, Martha. Lizards and Salamanders. ISBN 9781503835955.
Pearson, Marie. Dolphins and Porpoises. ISBN 9781503835894.
––––. Leopards and Cheetahs. ISBN 9781503835924.
––––. Wasps and Bees. ISBN 9781503835948.
Reed, Ellis M. Alligators and Crocodiles. ISBN 9781503835900.
––––. Llamas and Alpacas. ISBN 9781503835931.
Ringstad, Arnold. Puffins and Penguins. ISBN 9781503835962.
York, M.J. Butterflies and Moths. ISBN 9781503835870.
––––. Toads and Frogs. ISBN 9781503835863.
ea vol: 24p. (Comparing Animal Differences). The Child’s World. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr K-3 –Well-organized presentations highlight the key differences between similar types of animals. Separate six-page chapters introduce relevant features and behaviors of each creature, like the hare’s long legs and the fish-carrying abilities of a puffin. Closing chapters point out the contrasting qualities as well as similarities, while a final spread presents opposing photographs of each animal with captions to visually highlight the differences. Full-page images on each spread usually do a good job of depicting the relevant information from the text. While some featured pairs (such as lizards and salamanders) have more pronounced differences than other similar animals (like llamas and alpacas), the text and pictures still effectively convey information. The complexities of animal classification are appropriately used only when needed for clarity. VERDICT Clear and accessible introductions with consistent focus on the series topic.


Higgins, Melissa. Powerful Praying Mantids. ISBN 9781977114334.
––––. Splendid Spiders. ISBN 9781977114341.
Peterson, Megan Cooley. Cool Crickets. ISBN 9781977114327.
––––. Wonderful Worms. ISBN 9781977114358.
ea vol: 32p. (Little Entomologist 4D). Capstone/Pebble. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.65.
PreS-Gr 2 –These animal profiles are organized into several broad groups (such as bristle worms and tree crickets), providing a useful approach given the wide variety of species. Qualities specific to the group, like habitat and size, are neatly woven in with broader topics that apply to most or all varieties, such as life cycles. Physical characteristics and behavior are clearly explained along with a mixture of more specific, often fascinating facts, such as the mating habits of bush crickets. Size, range, and number of species are provided for each group. Most spreads include a single large photograph, well chosen to highlight the animal’s physical features. Captioned diagrams offer further visual support. In some cases, inset close-up photographs provide useful visual context. VERDICT High visual appeal, strong informational presentation, and facts about unusual creatures make this a first choice for the 590s.

 

Stratton, Connor. Life in the Arctic. ISBN 9781646190195.
––––. Life in the Desert. ISBN 9781646190201.
––––. Life in the Forest. ISBN 9781646190218.
––––. Life in the Mountains. ISBN 9781646190225.
––––. Life in the Ocean. ISBN 9781646190232.
––––. Life in the Rain Forest. ISBN 9781646190249.
ea vol: 24p. (Animals Live Here). North Star Editions/Little Blue Readers. Jan. 2020. Tr. $27.07.
PreS-Gr 2 –About a dozen animals from common habitats are described at the most basic level. Simple sentences present one or two facts: "Chameleons live in the rain forest. They can change colors." Habitats are introduced with similar brevity: "The mountains are high up and cold." In most cases, a clear full-page photo appears opposite the text. The beginning-level information paired with consistent, repetitive sentence structure makes the titles accessible to new readers. Sometimes the general nature of the text can be misleading. For instance, the statement that whales in the arctic "have white skin" is accompanied by a beluga whale photo but implies that all arctic whales are white. Most photographs depict the featured environment in recognizable ways. There are no maps showing habitat locations; younger readers might need that visual context. An index lists only four animals. VERDICT Additional choices for early reader nonfiction sections.
 

Suen, Anastasia. Arctic Foxes. ISBN 9781681517957.
––––. Orcas. ISBN 9781681517964.
––––. Polar Bears. ISBN 9781681517971.
––––. Reindeer. ISBN 9781681517988.
––––. Sea Otters. ISBN 9781681517995.
––––. Snowy Owls. ISBN 9781681518008.
ea vol: 16p. (Spot Arctic Animals). Amicus. Jan. 2020. Tr. $27.10.
PreS-Gr 1 –Aimed at new readers, these titles use simple vocabulary and attractive photographs to present introductory animal information. Four physical features are identified on the first page, then highlighted throughout the book with text and photos. Polar Bears, for example, shows spot images of claws, nose, eyes, and fur. Subsequent spreads offer basic facts in short sentences: "See the claws? They are sharp. They grab food." The accompanying full-page close-up image shows the animal’s feet with claws clearly prominent. The question and answer style of the text works well for introductory nonfiction, while the well-chosen photographs offer solid support. Occasional undefined terms such as blubber and hollow might be a stretch for the target audience of the youngest readers. VERDICT The handful of basic facts won’t satisfy more curious learners, but these are good choices for new readers with an interest in nature.
 

ELEMENTARY

Adamson, Thomas K. Anaconda vs. Jaguar. ISBN 9781644871553.
––––. Great White Shark vs. Killer Whale. ISBN 9781644871577.
––––. Rhinoceros vs. African Elephant. ISBN 9781644871607.
Sommer, Nathan. Gorilla vs. Leopard. ISBN 9781644871560.
––––. Grizzly Bear vs. Wolf Pack. ISBN 9781644871584.
––––. Lion vs. Hyena Clan. ISBN 9781644871591.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Battles). Bellwether/Torque. Jan. 2020. Tr. $25.95.
Gr 3-7 –Unlike some animal vs. animal series, this set looks at creatures that share habitats and could battle each other. For example, lions and hyenas do not often clash, but they occasionally fight to protect their young or claim food. A profile of each animal is followed by side-by-side comparisons of the competitors’ "secret weapons" and "attack moves." Occasional text boxes provide information not related to the fight, such as tool use by gorillas. The final spread reveals the winner of the imagined face-off. Statistics and comparisons help to set the stage and are successfully supported by infographics, insets, and diagrams. Opposing photographs of the animals, set against dark backgrounds, capture their more ferocious aspects. Separate photos are combined to look like a real scene for the final physical conflict. These are visually impressive but could mislead readers. VERDICT Engaging choices for readers who like animal nonfiction with action.
 

Arnold, Quinn M. Horses. ISBN 9781640262324.
––––. Pigs. ISBN 9781640262331.
––––. Sheep. ISBN 9781640262348.
Dittmer, Lori. Chickens. ISBN 9781640262294.
––––. Cows. ISBN 9781640262300.
––––. Goats. ISBN 9781640262317.
ea vol: 32p. (Grow with Me). Creative Education. Jan. 2020. Tr. $32.80.
Gr 3 Up –These series entries provide fairly thorough profiles of domestic animals. The opening pages describe an animal’s basic physical features and geographic locations, followed by a look at the processes of birth and development. The settings in which owners keep the animal groups, as well as the products they produce for humans, are also described. While examples of some wild animal varieties are noted (Goats, Sheep), the emphasis is on domestic life. Full-page photographs offer a nice variety of breeds in different settings and situations. Small inset photos on some pages enhance the visual presentation. Predators and potential health risks are included. There is no mention of factory farming, which is an appropriate choice for the intended audience. VERDICT Solid introductions where subject coverage is needed.

 

Bassier, Emma. Aardvarks. ISBN 9781532166013.
––––. Axolotls. ISBN 9781532166020.
––––. Aye-Ayes. ISBN 9781532166037.
––––. Blowfish. ISBN 9781532166044.
––––. Japanese Spider Crabs. ISBN 9781532166051.
––––. Markhors. ISBN 9781532166068.
––––. Naked Mole Rats. ISBN 9781532166075.
––––. Narwhals. ISBN 9781532166082.
ea vol: 32p. (Weird and Wonderful Animals). ABDO/DiscoverRoo. Dec. 2019. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-5 –Unusual animals are the draw in this series. While the unique features of each creature are highlighted (such as the axolotl’s regenerative abilities and the tusk of the narwhal), coverage extends to more general information about behaviors, physical characteristics, and life cycles. A couple of short paragraphs per spread provide a good variety of factual material, though it does not always flow smoothly. Several inset text boxes provide well-chosen data. Most spreads include two half-page photographs; though not large, the images complement the text effectively. Captions highlight relevant visual content. A range map and a life cycle chart are also useful features. Four QR codes and a website link offer a video, activities, and further information. VERDICT Solid profiles of animals that cannot always be found in children’s collections.

 

Cohn, Jessica. Goats. ISBN 9780531129784.
Fitzgerald, Stephanie. Armadillos. ISBN 9780531129760.
––––. Black Bears. ISBN 9780531129777.
––––. Giant Pandas. ISBN 9780531129807.
Grunbaum, Mara. Llamas. ISBN 9780531129791.
Herrington, Lisa M. Sloths. ISBN 9780531129814.
ea vol: 32p. (Wild Life LOL!). Scholastic/Children’s Pr. Feb. 2020. Tr. $25.
Gr 1-3 –This series mixes humor and facts to engage readers. The jokes start on the cover with a pun from the featured animal ("This book is MAA-velous!" says the goat). Layouts present splashes of textual information, mostly arranged in word balloons of varied shapes. A spread on the black bear’s senses, for instance, includes interesting information about smell, hearing, and vision, along with a fact about the brain and a "That’s extreme!" box about running speed, plus a riddle. Text insets are well placed around the featured photograph, and the color coding and different shapes make the visual presentation pleasing and easy to follow. Photos are useful; many also add to the lighthearted tone. Some spreads use a series of three or four images (numbered and captioned) to convey information. VERDICT A well-executed mixture of facts and humor that should ­appeal to browsers and reluctant readers.

 

Dellaccio, Tanya. Raising Llamas. ISBN 9781725309043.
––––. Raising Snails. ISBN 9781725309166.
Emminizer, Theresa. Raising Bees. ISBN 9781725308886.
––––. Raising Pigeons. ISBN 9781725309081.
Klatte, Kathleen A. Raising Bison. ISBN 9781725308923.
Machajewski, Sarah. Raising Fish. ISBN 9781725309005.
––––. Raising Reindeer. ISBN 9781725309128.
Tolli, Jenna. Raising Emus. ISBN 9781725308961.
ea vol: 24p. (Unusual Farm Animals). Rosen/PowerKids. Jan. 2020. Tr. $23.60.
Gr 2-5 –This set looks beyond the usual cows, sheep, and chickens to introduce less common farm animals. Content includes animal history, general facts about how they live on the farm, descriptions of products humans use and sell, and some of the challenges with keeping the animals in ways that make the farm successful. General physical characteristics and behaviors are directly related to existence on the farm in most cases. For example, the size of bison and llamas is described in terms of how it impacts fencing requirements. Smaller animals and insects (bees, snails, and pigeons) are covered, along with the larger livestock mammals. Photographs show the animals in varied settings, sometimes interacting with their human caretakers. Images of the products they are used for, including food, appear for most but not all cases. VERDICT Informative animal profiles from a context that is not often presented.

 

Gray, Susan H. Cheetah Cubs. ISBN 9781534158894.
––––. Chimpanzee Babies. ISBN 9781534158900.
––––. Elephant Calves. ISBN 9781534158917.
––––. Giraffe Calves. ISBN 9781534158924.
––––. Hippopotamus Calves. ISBN 9781534158931.
––––. Jaguar Cubs. ISBN 9781534158948.
––––. Koala Bear Joeys. ISBN 9781534158955.
––––. Penguin Chicks. ISBN 9781534158986.
––––. Polar Bear Cubs. ISBN 9781534158962.
––––. Sloth Babies. ISBN 9781534158979.
ea vol: 24p. (Babies at the Zoo). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 1-2 –General animal information is paired with specific facts about babies in these animal profiles. Readers learn a bit about where and how the animals live in the wild; the focus shifts to zoo life about halfway through. Basic physical traits and behaviors are described, with some emphasis on how mother and child interact. Photos include adults and their young. These reveal the cuteness of the babies while also providing some pleasing visual examples of their behaviors, such as a sleeping joey and a wobbly giraffe. Newborn animals are not shown, though some of the physical characteristics at birth are described. Most books include at least one photograph of a zookeeper interacting with the animal. Occasional questions to the reader provide a mildly interactive element, but these are sometimes too vague to connect strongly. VERDICT Some appeal for browsers.

 

Harris, Tim. Wildlife Worlds Africa. ISBN 9780778776772.
––––. Wildlife Worlds Asia. ISBN 9780778776789.
––––. Wildlife Worlds Australia and Antarctica. ISBN 9780778776796.
––––. Wildlife Worlds Europe. ISBN 9780778776802.
––––. Wildlife Worlds North America. ISBN 9780778776819.
––––. Wildlife Worlds South America. ISBN 9780778776826.
ea vol: 32p. (Wildlife Worlds). Crabtree. Jan. 2020. Tr. $27.60.
Gr 3-6 –Each title introduces a dozen locations that highlight the variety of plants and animals of the continent. Coverage ranges from national parks such as Yellowstone to ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef and geographical ranges like the Galápagos Islands. Each spread describes the unique qualities of the habitat in two or three concise paragraphs. Captioned photographs typically present three or four animals per location. With just a sentence or two of text, the animal facts serve more as an introduction to the variety of wildlife rather than full profiles. Plant life and geographical features (waterfalls and islands) are also introduced. A clearly labeled continent map identifies the location of each featured site. Though there is not enough detail on individual animals or the locations for in-depth learning, the set provides an intriguing survey of wildlife from a geographical perspective. VERDICT Consider for larger collections.
 

Kenney, Karen Latchana. Bat Colonies. ISBN 9781641288439.
––––. Fish Schools. ISBN 9781641288453.
––––. Geese Gaggles. ISBN 9781641288477.
––––. Kangaroo Mobs. ISBN 9781641288491.
––––. Lion Prides. ISBN 9781641288514.
––––. Monkey Troops. ISBN 9781641288538.
––––. Orca Whale Pods. ISBN 9781641288552.
––––. Wolf Packs. ISBN 9781641288576.
ea vol: 24p. (Better Together: Animal Groups). Jump!/Pogo. Jan. 2020. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-5 –Each title in this series describes animal groupings and explores how the members benefit. For example, kangaroo mobs facilitate safety, child rearing, and grooming. One short paragraph per page explains a different key aspect of the social construct, accompanied by a large photo that usually fits the text just right. Simple, useful diagrams visually demonstrate specific concepts like bat echolocation. Several "Did you know?" insets per book provide additional facts that are interesting and relevant. Captions identify some of the species shown in photos, but most are not named. The writing is direct and well organized. Broader facts about behaviors are presented within the context of group living. There’s just the right amount of information and strong visual support for a reader new to the topic. ­VERDICT A fine choice for mid-elementary school age learners.

 

O’Daly, Anne. Apes and Monkeys. ISBN 9781623101503.
––––. Big Cats. ISBN 9781623101510.
––––. Bugs. ISBN 9781623101527.
––––. Sharks. ISBN 9781623101534.
––––. Snakes. ISBN 9781623101541.
––––. Whales and Dolphins. ISBN 9781623101558.
ea vol: 24p. (Animal Detectives). Black Rabbit/Brown Bear. Jan. 2020. Tr. $25.95.
Gr 2-4 –Each series title offers a handful of facts about eight different species within a broad animal group. Neatly laid-out spreads present information that is clear and easy to follow. A couple of introductory sentences, two captioned images, and an inset with a specific bit of information are complemented by a simple "fact file," a range map, and a scale drawing. There’s just enough data to engage a young reader’s curiosity about the animals, with a nice balance between general and specific information. The focus is on highlighted species, so group commonalities or differences are not addressed. Most of the featured animals can be found in other books. Larger drawings effectively depict the animal’s key features, although neither these nor the smaller photographs are especially eye-catching. VERDICT Basic information in an accessible, though less than exciting format.


Most of the series above offer solid content and appealing visuals for young learners. For the more reluctant readers, "Wild Life LOL!" (Scholastic/Children’s Pr.) stands out for the way it uses humor to maintain appeal without sacrificing learning opportunities, while "Animal Battles" (Bellwether/Torque) conveys information within the context of action-packed conflicts. "Little Entomologist 4D" (Capstone/Pebble) presents an appealing mix of facts and photos. Similarly, "Better Together: Animal Groups" (Jump!/Pogo) introduces topics at just the right level for mid-elementary age learners. "Spot Arctic Animals" (Amicus) fills a need for nonfiction at the beginning reader’s level. "Unusual Farm Animals" (Rosen/PowerKids) and "Weird and Wonderful Animals" (ABDO/DiscoverRoo) both offer engaging profiles of creatures that are less commonly covered in children’s nonfiction.

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